Ex-Tesco boss becomes chair at Travel Counsellors

Steve Byrne, left, and Matt Davies

Matt Davies, the ex-UK chief of Tesco, has been named the non-executive chairman of fast-growing Manchester-based travel company Travel Counsellors.

Mr Davies has been responsible for the success of retail consumer brands including Pets at Home and Halfords.

In 2015, he was appointed chief executive of Tesco’s UK business, and was integral to the firm’s recent turnaround, culminating in the completion of a £3.7bn takeover of wholesaler Booker Group earlier this year.

Having left Tesco following the completion of the transaction, he became one of the FTSE 350’s youngest chairman after being named chair of Manchester-based online retailer N Brown in February 2018.

The appointment of Mr Davies comes as Travel Counsellors announces its 12th consecutive year of double-digit revenue growth, with average annual turnover growth of 18% over the past five years.

In the year to October 31, 2017, total accounting turnover for the business rose to £217m, up 15% on the £188m seen the year before.

These figures have been boosted by a strong start to 2018, with the business reporting that total bookings rose 12% in the first half of the year to hit £328m, and sales this year are on track to be in excess of £600m.

The news also comes as the company were last week recognised at the British Venture Capital Association’s Awards, being named the BVCA Management Team of the Year for the second year running.

In June the company completed a secondary buyout backed by Vitruvian Partners.

The transaction, which resulted in an exit for Equistone Partners Europe, will see the business continue to invest heavily in its in-house technology platforms, with more than £6m set aside to spend on IT developments and upgrades in 2018.

Founded in Manchester in 1994, Travel Counsellors has grown to become a global travel company, providing bespoke holiday and corporate travel packages to more than 450,000 customers each year.

The company acts as a platform for its franchisees, with more than 1,800 self-employed Travel Counsellors working flexibly from home.

This model is underpinned by the company’s proprietary technology platform, Phenix, which assists each Travel Counsellor to run their business and deliver high levels of personal service to both leisure and business customers.

Its franchisees are supported by a 300-strong, global team, with UK operations delivered from headquarters in Manchester.

Matt Davies said: “I’m delighted to be joining Travel Counsellors as chairman and I’m really looking forward to supporting Steve and the team in delivering world class travel experiences to customers across the globe.

“I have never met a team with such passion, energy and commitment to delivering for their customers and as obsessive about putting its people and customers at the epicentre of everything it does.”

Steve Byrne, chief executive at Travel Counsellors, said: “Over the course of his career Matt has had a transformational impact on the retail sector, creating new standards of quality and building household names.

“This track record, combined with his commitment to customer service and passion for putting people at the heart of a business, makes him the ideal non-executive chairman for Travel Counsellors.

“We will continue to focus on attracting, developing and building a team of the very best talent to enable the company to scale, alongside the development of our technology platform to operate on a much bigger stage.

“Matt’s guidance, knowledge and experience will prove invaluable on this journey, as we strive to improve the level of service provided to both our franchisees and customers.”